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Titus 2:6. Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded.
THE first object of a Christian minister is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, in all its freeness and in all its fulness. This is the foundation of a sinner’s hope: and unless this foundation be firmly laid, it will be in vain to attempt any superstructure; since from the Gospel alone, and from Christ as revealed in it, can we obtain that strength which is necessary for the production of any good work whatever. But, when we have made known “the truth as it is in Jesus,” we must go on to inculcate holiness in all its branches; and not in general terms only, but with a special reference to every particular person whom we may have occasion to address. Titus, though but a youth, was enjoined to officiate with all the authority of a divinely-appointed minister; and to address with equal fidelity the aged and the young, on the subject of their respective duties: “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” exhort alike “the aged men, and aged women,” “the young women also, and the young men,” giving to each the instruction suited to his own peculiar state and condition. To the aged men and aged women many important hints were to be offered; as to the young women also, through the medium of the matrons. In every one of these, sobriety of mind bears a part [Note: ver. 2, σώφρονας: ver. 4, σωφρονίζωσι: ver. 5, σώφρονας: ver. 6, σωφρονεῖν.]: but in the instructions which he is to give to young men, it comprehends the whole; since, if they be thoroughly imbued with that, it will form their whole character agreeably to the mind of God. I shall not, however, so confine my observations to the one sex as to overlook the other, but shall address myself indiscriminately to youth in general. And in doing this, I will,
Shew whence it is that young people need this particular counsel—
They are inexperienced as to the world—
[The world, in the eyes of youth, looks fair, and promises much happiness to those who will worship at its shrine. Its allurements are set forth on every side; and its votaries are everywhere inviting us to participate their delights. But its choicest flowers conceal a thorn; its sweetest draughts are impregnated with poison. Of all that it contains, there is not any thing that is capable of affording any permanent satisfaction: on every thing in it is stamped, in characters that are indelible, this humiliating inscription, “Vanity and vexation of spirit.” Over this, however, is hung a veil, which time and experience alone are, for the most part, able to remove. What wonder then is it, if youth, who see nothing but the outward garb of the world, admire its glittering vanities, and give themselves to the pursuit of its empty shadows? What wonder, if, after having got a taste of its delusive pleasures, they suppose, of course, that the harvest will correspond with the first-fruits? But the event never justifies the expectation. To none did the world ever yet prove a satisfying portion: and therefore, in the commencement of their course, the counsel in the text is necessary for every child of man.]
They are but little acquainted with their own hearts—
[They take credit to themselves for meaning well: and they do perhaps, on the whole, mean well: entertaining no deliberate purpose to offend either God or man. But they are not aware how strong a bias there is within them, or through what a delusive medium they behold the things around them. Their prejudices are all in favour of the world: their passions are pleading strong for indulgence: self-denial is in its very nature painful: and, if only they keep within the bounds prescribed by custom, they can see no reason why they should debar themselves from any species of indulgence. By gratification, their dispositions, their habits, their very sentiments, are confirmed; and thus they proceed in their vain career; “calling good evil, and evil good; putting darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter [Note: Isaiah 5:20.]:” in a word, whilst they feed on ashes, a deceived heart turns them aside; so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand [Note: Isaiah 44:20.]?” How needful for them the counsel in our text is, must be obvious to every considerate mind.]
They are surrounded on every side with evil counsellors and vicious examples—
[The great mass of mankind are walking after the imagination of their own hearts, and not after God. Nor are they ashamed of what they do: yea, rather, they glory in their shame, and with undaunted effrontery persuade all around them to “follow their pernicious ways.” The votaries of real piety, on the contrary, are few; and in their habits they affect an unobtrusive concealment. Of course, young people conceive that the great majority are right; and that those who are walking in a narrow and unfrequented path, are actuated by some vain conceit, against which it will be well to guard. The invitations too of the gay are welcome, because they meet with a congeniality of sentiment and feeling in the youthful bosom; whilst the lessons of wisdom and piety find a very reluctant admission into the soul. We need only observe how different an ear young people turn to the counsels of wisdom, and of folly, and we shall see the importance of the admonition in our text, and the necessity of “exhorting them to be sober-minded.”]
Having shewn what need young people have of counsel, I will,
Suggest such counsel as their situation requires—
Under this head we might range through the whole field of practical wisdom, and bring forth topics which would occupy a whole volume. But we must content ourselves with a few brief hints:
Some more general—
[The first point that I would press on your attention is, to get your souls deeply imbued with the concerns of eternity. If the concerns of time have the ascendant in your hearts, there can be no hope of your ever being sober-minded, because your views and dispositions are radically wrong. You are immortal beings; and must never forget, that in a few more hours you will be standing at the tribunal of your Judge, and be consigned by him, for ever, either to heaven or to hell. If that be kept out of sight, every species of delusion will be harboured in the mind, and will reign without controul — — —
But it is not a general conviction that will suffice. No: you must pray to God to guide you in every step of your way. So “deceitful is sin,” and so “desperately wicked is the heart,” that no human care can preserve you. It is God alone that can keep the feet of his saints. Had you all the zeal of Peter, you might, in a time of trial, deny your Lord, and dissemble with your God. To your latest hour you must entreat of God to guide you; for “it is not in man that walketh to direct his paths;” and, in every step you take, you must say, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe” — — —
You must also be diligent in studying the word of God. There is something very imposing in the maxims of the world; and you will easily be misled by them. But the word of God must be your rule: it must be the one touchstone, by which you are to try every sentiment and every practice. You must take the sublimest precepts of Holy Writ, and set before you the brightest examples that are there exhibited: you must behold an Abraham sacrificing his only son at the command of God; and a Moses giving up all the treasures of Egypt, that he might participate affliction with the people of God. You must follow the Apostle Paul in all his diversified scenes of trial; and see what spirit he manifested, what conduct he pursued. Above all, you must contemplate your blessed Lord and Saviour in every step which he took whilst sojourning in this polluted world. It is in this way that you must attain sobriety of mind. The world will call these things enthusiasm: but, whatever the world may say or think, your wisdom is to “be conformed to Christ,” and to “walk in all things as he walked.”]
Others more particular—
[General rules will scarcely suffice to mark with sufficient accuracy the counsel in my text. I would therefore descend to a few particulars; and say, Consider what becomes you in your place and station. There are particular duties assigned to different situations: to you who are in earlier life, the virtues of modesty, and diffidence, and submission, are of prime importance. Nothing is more hateful than conceit and waywardness in the youthful mind. The younger are especially commanded to be in subjection to the elder, and especially to those elders who are placed by God in authority over us: and, wherever there is sobriety of mind, there will be a willing obedience to all lawful authority, and a diligent performance of every appointed duty. Humility, respect, and deference to the judgment of superiors, are pre-eminently characteristic of a well-regulated mind.
I would also say, Consider, on every occasion, what impression your conduct is likely to make on others. This is on no account to be overlooked. An inattention to it is productive of incalculable evil. We are not at liberty to cast stumbling-blocks in the way of others. Religion of itself, however careful we may be, will be sufficiently offensive to the carnal mind, without having any thing added to it by our imprudence. We should guard, as much as possible, that “our good may not be evil spoken of:” and if, as must of necessity be the case, we are constrained in many things to act contrary to the wishes of those around us, we should seek to disarm their hostility by meekness and gentleness, and not to augment it by petulance and indiscretion.
One great help to sobriety will be, (what I would next recommend,) to choose for your associates the prudent and discreet. “He that walketh with wise men,” says Solomon, “will be wise; but a companion of fools will be destroyed.” We naturally drink into the spirit of those with whom we associate: and we are told from authority, that “evil communications will corrupt good manners.” Indeed, from evil connexions the most deplorable consequences ensue. It is no uncommon thing for a man, who at first only “walks occasionally in the counsel of the ungodly, to come ere long to stand in the way of notorious sinners, and at last to be found sitting in the seat of the scornful.” If you would walk wisely, put away from you the light, the vain, and those who are indulging any sinful propensity; and gather round you the wise, the discreet, the holy. This will render your path incomparably more safe and easy, and will contribute to fix in you such habits as are “praise-worthy and of good report.”
To this I would add yet further, Examine your own motives and principles of action, with all possible care and diligence. Many persuade themselves that they are doing right; whilst all but themselves see, that they are acting a very unworthy part. James and John were at one time actuated by ambition, and at another time by revenge; whilst yet they had not the smallest consciousness of deviating from the path of duty. But they “knew not what spirit they were of.” And so it is with us: we may think that we are under the influence of a religious principle; whilst, in fact, we are manifesting a temper that is truly Satanic. Let us remember this; that whatever proceeds from pride, from passion, from interest, or from any corrupt principle whatever, is wrong; and that we then only are right, when our zeal for God is blended with love to man, and when we are ready to weep over the persons whom we are constrained to offend.
Lastly, I would say, Be open to conviction. Diffidence becomes every child of man. A backwardness to receive reproof, or to listen to one who would point out to us a wiser path, is a strong presumptive evidence that we are wrong. We should be jealous over ourselves. We see mistake and obstinacy in others; and we should guard against them in ourselves. Our first care must be, to “prove all things,” and then to “hold fast that only which is good.”]
Those who are yet strangers to “sound doctrine”—
[You have at least seen, this day, that the Gospel is not, as some slanderously affirm, opposed to morality: you have seen, on the contrary, that “the grace of God which bringeth salvation teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [Note: ver. 11, 12.].” Do not then impute, as many do, the indiscretions of professors to the Gospel which they profess. It is not to be supposed that young people should all at once become so wise and discreet, that they shall not err in any thing. They are “of like passions with yourselves,” and are in the midst of a tempting and ensnaring world; and have, moreover, deceitful hearts, and a subtle adversary ever endeavouring to turn them aside. Be not offended, then, if you do see somewhat of indiscretion in youthful professors. Ascribe it not to their religion, but their inexperience: and if you see them growing in sobriety of mind and consistency of conduct, let the honour redound to that Gospel by which they are animated; and to that God, by whose gracious influences they are instructed and upheld.
There is one danger to which the indiscretions of religious people may expose you; and that is, the confounding of coldness and indifference with sobriety of mind. Be assured, that however faulty religious professors may be in the exercise of their zeal, you can never be right in indulging a lukewarm spirit. This is offensive to God, and odious in the extreme. Religion requires the heart, the whole heart; nor will God be satisfied with any thing less. I call upon you, therefore, to embrace the truth, and to walk worthy of it: and, instead of censuring the infirmities of the weak, be yourselves examples to them in every thing that becometh the Gospel of Christ.]
Those who desire to serve the Lord—
[Your very desires, if not duly regulated, may lead you astray. You may imagine that your duty to your God and Saviour supersede your duties to men; but it does no such thing. The duties of the second table are as binding as those of the first: only they must, to a certain degree, be subordinated to them. I say, to a certain degree; for if there be only a positive institution, the duty of love will supersede that: but, where the commands are of a moral and religious nature, there God must be obeyed, and not man. You must endeavour to make all your duties harmonize: for, most assuredly, there is no real contradiction between them; and in endeavouring to fulfil them all, you must not forget that declaration of Solomon, “I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence.” Prudence is not that contemptible virtue which many people imagine: it calls into action much thought, and care, and self-denial, and love; and it tends, in a very high degree, to recommend the Gospel. On the exercise of it much of God’s honour depends: for imprudence will cause his ways to be evil spoken of, and “his very name to be blasphemed.” On the exercise of this, too, the eternal welfare of multitudes depends. No one knows how many might be “won by the good conversation of God’s people, who never will be won by the word.” Let this be kept in mind: you will at least cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against you; and put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;—and, who can tell? you may peradventure, by the light which shines from you, constrain many to “confess, that God is with you of a truth,” and lead them “to glorify God in the day of visitation [Note: 1 Peter 2:12.].” Guard, then, against extremes of every kind; and say with David, “I will walk wisely before thee, in a perfect way [Note: Psalms 101:2.].” Guard against extremes in austerity; extremes in fear; extremes in confidence; extremes in boldness and forwardness. There is a season for every grace, and a limit to the exercise of every grace. Your faith must be tempered with fear; your boldness, with modesty; your zeal, with love: you must have a spirit of “power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” You must not so tremble, as to forget that you have cause to rejoice; nor so rejoice, as to forget that you have cause to tremble: you must combine the two, and “rejoice with trembling.” In this way you will attain sobriety of mind, and “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”]
THE GOSPEL PRODUCTIVE OF HOLINESS
Titus 2:11-14. The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
WHEREVER Christianity has been professed, the standard of public morals has been raised: and in proportion as it has gained an ascendant over the hearts of men, it has approved itself the friend and parent of good works. That many have perverted its principles, and walked unworthy of them, is true; but this can form no solid objection against the Gospel itself, any more than the abuse of reason or of the blessings of Providence can disprove the benefit of them when rightly used. We will not concede one atom of the freeness or riches of divine grace; yet will we maintain that the Gospel is conducive to morality: for at the same time that it brings salvation to men, it inculcates every species of moral duty, and enforces the practice of godliness in the most authoritative and energetic manner. This is evident from the words before us; in which we may notice,
The character of the Gospel—
The Gospel is supposed by many to be no other than a remedial law—
[The law given to man in Paradise, and republished on Mount Sinai, required perfect obedience. But fallen man can never obtain happiness on those terms. Hence many imagine, that Christ came to publish a new law, suited to our weak and fallen state. They suppose that his death atoned for our past transgressions; and that it purchased for us a power to regain heaven by an imperfect but sincere obedience. Thus they make the Gospel to differ very little from the law. They reduce indeed the standard of the law; but they insist upon obedience to its requirements, as the terms on which alone we are to be saved. They ascribe to Christ the honour of obtaining salvation for us on these favourable conditions; but they make our performance of the conditions themselves to be the true and proper ground of our acceptance with God.]
But the Gospel, as described in the text, is widely different from this—
[Such a law as these persons substitute for the Gospel, could not properly be called “grace;” nor could it be said to “bring salvation;” for it does not bestow life as a gift, but requires it to be earned; and brings only an opportunity of earning it on easier terms. But that Gospel, which in the Apostle’s days “appeared to all men,” was “a dispensation of grace [Note: Ephesians 3:2.]:” it revealed a Saviour; it directed our eyes to Christ, as having wrought out salvation for us; and it offered that salvation to us freely, “without money and without price.”
This is the true character of the Gospel. It is grace, mere grace, and altogether grace from first to last. It brings a free, a full, a finished salvation. It requires nothing to be done to purchase its blessings, or to merit them in any measure. In it God gives all, and we receive all.]
Yet there will be no room to charge the Gospel as licentious, if we consider,
The lessons it inculcates—
We have before said, that it requires nothing as the price of life. But as an evidence of our having obtained life, and in a variety of other views, it requires,
A renunciation of all sin—
[By “ungodliness” we understand every thing that is contrary to the first table of the law; as profaneness, unbelief, neglect of divine ordinances, &c. And, by “worldly lusts” we understand “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life [Note: 1 John 2:15-16.];” or, in other words, the pleasures, riches, and honours of the world. All of these are to be “denied” and renounced. As, on the one hand, we are not to dishonour God; so neither, on the other hand, are we to idolize the creature. Nor is it against open transgressions merely that we are to guard, but against the secret “lusts” or desires. The very inclinations and propensities to sin must be mortified. This is indispensably necessary, to prove that we have embraced the Gospel aright: for, “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: Galatians 5:24.].”]
A life of universal holiness—
[We have duties to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Those which relate to ourselves are comprehended under the term “sobriety,” which includes the government of all our passions, and the regulation of all our tempers. “Righteousness” fitly expresses our duty to our neighbour, which briefly consists in this, The doing to him as we would that he, in a change of circumstances, should do unto us. “Godliness” pertains more immediately to the offices of piety and devotion, and marks that respect which we ought to have in our minds to God in all that we do. Thus extensive are the injunctions of the Gospel: it makes no abatement in its demands: it gives no licence to sin: it does not allow us to reduce its requisitions to our attainments; but urges us to raise our attainments to the standard which God has fixed. Nor is it on some particular occasions only that it requires these things: it enjoins us to “live” in this way as long as we are “in this present world,” having the tenour of our lives uniformly and perseveringly conformed to these precepts. Such is that holiness which the Gospel requires, and “without which no man shall see the Lord.”]
Sufficient has already been stated to shew the practical tendency of the Gospel. But its tendency will yet further appear from,
The motives it suggests—
The instructions which the Gospel affords, are not mere directions, but commands, enforced with the most powerful motives that can actuate the mind of man. Those suggested in the text may be considered as referring to,
Our own interest—
[There is a day coming, when our adorable Emmanuel, who once veiled his Deity in human flesh, will appear in all the glory of the Godhead. At that period, all that we have done for God shall be brought to light: and though our good works shall not be the meritorious ground of our acceptance with him, they shall be noticed by him with approbation, and rewarded with a proportionable weight of glory. This is “that blessed hope” which the Gospel has set before us, and to which it directs us continually to “look.”
And is not this sufficient to instigate us to holiness? If we kept this in view, how unremitted would be our diligence, and how delightful our work!]
[At the first appearance of the Lord Jesus, the scope and tendency of his doctrine were shadowed forth in miracles: the devils were cast out by him, and all manner of diseases were healed. But the full intent of his incarnation and death were not understood till after the day of Pentecost. Then the honour of his Gospel was completely vindicated. Then the most abandoned characters were changed: the lion became a lamb; and those who had borne the very image of the devil, were changed into the image of their God. At his next appearing, this will be more fully manifest. Then the lives of all his people will bear testimony respecting the end of his voluntary sacrifice. It will then be seen, beyond controversy, that “he gave himself to redeem us,” not merely from condemnation, but from sin; from the love and practice of all iniquity; and to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Then “will he see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied:” then also will “the ignorance of foolish men be silenced:” and then will “Christ be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:10.];” for every grace they have exercised will “tend to his praise and honour and glory” in that solemn day [Note: 1 Peter 1:7.].
And is not this also a strong motive to influence our minds? Can we reflect on the honour which will accrue to him, when the purifying efficacy of his Gospel shall be seen in all the myriads of his redeemed;—can we reflect on this, I say, and not long to add a jewel to his crown?]
How little do they know of the Gospel who live in any kind of sin!
[It matters little whether men profess themselves followers of Christ, or not, if they indulge iniquity in their hearts. “Can one born of God habitually commit sin?” No [Note: 1 John 3:9.]: “we have not so learned Christ, if so be we have heard him, and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus [Note: Ephesians 4:20-21.].” The Gospel “teaches us to deny and renounce all sin” without exception. Whoever ye be, therefore, who live by any other rule than that which the Gospel proposes, know that ye will surely be confounded in the day of Christ’s appearing. And the only difference between those who professed, and those who despised, the Gospel, will be, that “they who knew their Lord’s will and did it not, will be beaten with the more and heavier stripes.”]
How happy a world would this be, if all embraced and obeyed the Gospel!
[All kinds of iniquity would be renounced, and all heavenly graces be kept in exercise. There would be no public wars, no private animosities, no wants which would not be relieved as soon as they were known. Evil tempers would be banished: the pains arising from discontent or malice would be forgotten. Peace and love and joy would universally abound. Surely we should then have a heaven upon earth. Let the Gospel be viewed in this light. Let us conceive the whole world changed like the converts on the day of Pentecost; and then we shall indeed confess its excellence, and pray that “the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Titus 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany